It’s getting worse … and much more frustrating. Trying to work out what should have been solutions to some spreadsheet problems that I thought should have been pretty easy were not.
Similarly, I realized that I had misprinted and wasted two batches of bookmark strips printed with the year’s lectionary scriptures (which I’ve been making for the church for many years) and printed another set in which the front was mistakenly identical to the back. Eventually, I caught all of the mistakes, but only after wasting much ink, expensive card stock, time, and patience.
Now, I could have made perhaps one of those mistakes before my impairment, perhaps even two. So I can’t attribute any one mistake to the Alzheimer’s, but taken collectively, it’s obvious. Trying to know which mistakes are really due to the illness is a useless task (that I nevertheless keep attempting). It’s sort of like attributing any specific weather event to global climate change. Any single event, no matter how extreme, might have happened without climate change but the aggregate cannot be misinterpreted. Any particular one of these mistakes I’m making could be just a normal mistake, but the aggregate points pretty decidedly toward progressive disease.
How long can I responsibly hold on to these responsibilities I’ve carried at church? In most cases, like the lectionary strips, either I or someone else will discover and correct the mistakes without important consequences. But, especially in bookkeeping, mistakes can be more serious. I don’t want to give the responsibilities up because they are important elements of belonging to the community, but at some point it will obviously become necessary.
The same thing is true about my driving. At what point will my capacity to drive be so limited that I can’t drive well enough to keep my license? Over the weekend I drove a 3½-hour trip into Virginia. I thought I might be feeling a little but spacey, but that may have been due to the lack of sleep and all the Coke I’d been drinking to stay awake. But I noticed nothing unusual on the way back. When I do have to give up my license, it’s going to be very painful.
How will I decide these things? For something like driving, I certainly can’t wait until other people start noticing. For other things, like bookkeeping, the mistakes might be relatively serious but ultimately correctable. For others, like printing lectionary strips, there’s no real reason not to wait until others notice. I certainly want to forestall giving up some activities as long as possible. So far I’ve had confidence in my judgment. But a loss of judgment is itself another of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Tuesday night, I took another trip into Virginia, driving down to Richmond to do my annual talk to a college class at Richmond University. The professor who invites me down always asks for the same talk: a brief discussion of my medical mistakes article, a description of my work in the inner city, a description of the history of the ghetto, and a discussion of the criminal justice system and its impact on the poor. Rather than depending upon a lecture (which has never worked as well with this particular group), I decided this year to spend most of the time in discussion, so I broke my usual speech into a number of different parts, shortened each of them, and developed some pretty good discussion questions.
I thought it went well. The students seemed very appreciative. The professor later confirmed my judgment from her point of view. I wasn’t nervous and I felt very much “on my game.” It was a great ego booster in the midst of all this unpleasantness. It won’t last forever, of course, but that area of my mind doesn’t seem to have been affected yet. It’s not a little thing!
And I’m very grateful.